My tale of Maman Brigitte started with a brief to write a story around the Pagan festival of Imbolc, held on the 1st or 2nd of February. This, of course led me to Goddess Brigid, who is so strongly associated with the fire festival of Imbolc.
But doing research about Goddess Brigid led me to her interesting voodoo ‘cousin’, Maman Brigitte, whose origins were in Ireland with the Pagan goddess and the Catholic St Bridget. Irish slaves transported to the Caribbean in the 17th century brought their own legends and mythology with them and these merged with the native culture to create the figure of Maman Brigitte, a strange combination of Irish goddess and voodoo witch.
If you want to find out more about the Irish slave trade, then you can link to the blog on my web site on this little discussed subject: http://slavenano.co.uk/blog/maman-brigitte-and-the-forgotten-history-of-irish-slavery/
Maman Brigitte is one of the Guede, voodoo figures from Haiti (formerly St Domingue) who guard the crossroads between this world and the spirit world. She is said to be married to another such spirit, Baron Samedi.
She is a goddess of retribution and can be called upon to inflict punishments on those who harm her devotees. She is also a goddess of the cemetery and is said to especially protect graves marked with a cross, the cross being a symbol of the crossroads into the spirit world as well as representing Christianity.
She is a tough-talking woman who uses a lot of obscenities. She drinks rum laced with hot pepper. She is also known to pass hot pepper on the skin of her genitals, a test that is also used to determine faked possessions.
They still celebrate her in Haiti when on 2nd November Fet Ghede is a national holiday. Thousands of people dress in white or the purple and black of the Guede and stream onto the streets and head for the cemetery where the crosses of Maman Brigitte and Baron Samedi are worshipped.
Piloting the slave ship Le Saphir, captained by the cruel Captain Dugarry, is to be Gerard’s final job before retirement. He does not realize his journey will draw him into the world of Maman Brigitte, a Guede, who controls the way to the spirit world. Gerard is forced to choose between his life among the living and eternal submission to a cruel goddess.
In front of her was a table with a phial of liquid and three glasses. It was as if she was expecting us. She poured out a dark red liquid in each of the glasses and drank hers down in one gulp. The captain and I held the glasses pensively to our lips. I took a sip. It was like fire water, a sensation as if my mouth had been set alight. The captain spat his out, which I did not think wise. If he wanted help, he would do well to accept the witch woman’s hospitality, such as it was.
Maman Brigitte laughed, “You fucking soft whities.” She pointed the goat’s skull cane at us like an accusation. “You cannot share a little drink with Maman Brigitte? Come now, you must accept my offerings if you want to parley with me. Don’t you trust me? Do you think it’s bewitched? It’s only rum and chillies – hot chillies.”
I took another sip and felt the liquid burning the inside of my mouth. I decided the best approach was just to take it down in one gulp, which I then did. It felt like my insides were on fire as the hot liquid went down my throat and settled in my stomach. I grimaced but kept the fluid down. The captain followed my lead and did the same.
I had never seen the usually confident captain look so hesitant. He slowly explained who he was, his predicament, and how he had been recommended to seek Maman Brigitte’s aid to release the slaves from their possession. The Guede sat patiently, listening to his tale with an appraising ear, neither interrupting nor commenting on the story.
After Dugarry finished she responded. “Tell me white man, trader in the bodies and souls of men, why should I help you? Do you know anything of my past, of how I came to be, of why the only debt I owe to slave traders is one of bitterness?” We both shook our heads to indicate we did not.
She continued her account, “Very well, I will tell you. My spirit is descended from many centuries ago back to the Irish Pagan Goddess Brigid. My spirit came on English ships over a hundred and fifty years ago when the Irish were sent out here as slaves. My blood is mixed with the natives and the black slaves to make me the spirit that I am today. So, tell me why you think I should grant any favours to a slave trader, when I am a descendent of slaves myself?”
This was not going well. There really was no reason why this spirit-woman should do the captain of a French slave ship any favours. Dugarry replied in the only way he could in the circumstances, and offered the one thing he had, the promise of riches.
“If I sell my cargo then I’ll be a rich man. I can offer you gold sovereigns and wealth you can only dream of.” She remained inscrutable and just nodded.
She spoke again, “I may deign to help you. But, you realise that for the spirit world to come to your aid there has to be an exchange, some kind of sacrifice, an offering to appease me.”
Shit, I thought, where is this going? The captain is not going to like this. He feigned indifference, saying that if she could not help them he would take the possessed slaves back out to sea on Le Saphir and dump them in the Caribbean.
She laughed a high pitched cackle and shook her red mane as if she was actually taking pleasure in the fact somebody was daring to haggle with her.
“You could,” she said, “but then you would lose your money and you might have to face the spirits of the sea, and your own conscience, such as it is. Tell me; are you afraid to take up my challenge?” I looked at Captain Dugarry. His face was strained with indecision.
He asked Maman Brigitte what form the offering would take, but she refused to tell him or give him any guarantees, saying the risk and choice was all his. He said he would accept her challenge. Maman Brigitte told him to return again tomorrow with two of the possessed slaves as breaking the spell for these would also release all of the slaves. My heart jumped a beat when I heard the captain’s decision. What kind of test had he committed us to?
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Slave Nano is an author of erotica drawing on the themes of female supremacy, BDSM, and fetish. His short stories and novellas have been published by Xcite Books, House of Erotica, Coming Together, and Greenwoman Publishing. His novel Adventures in Fetishland has been published by Xcite Books. Maman Brigitte is his first story for Forbidden Fiction Publishing. He is a member of Leodis Pagan Group and has also had work published in the Pagan e-magazine Eternal Haunted Summer. You can find out more about his writing on his website: www.slavenano.co.uk